Taking My Time

People often say they’re impressed by my productivity. I may look more productive, but as a single man, I don’t have to deal with a lot of the stuff that keeps other people busy. Outside of work, my time is my own, to do with as I please. That doesn’t mean my life is better than someone with other responsibilities. Just different.

My style for getting stuff done has evolved over the years to emphasize expediency over other factors. I keep my to-do list short by dealing with things as they arise. I pay bills when they arrive in my mailbox, and when possible, answer email messages when I read them the first time. I’m also obedient and will take care of stuff I must do, whether at work or at home, well ahead of any deadline.

I make to-do lists, mostly because writing stuff down is the only way to make sure I don’t forget. Checking things off helps me feel like I’m moving ahead, and is sometimes more important than how well the job gets done. Good enough works fine for most things. I do the best I can.

Doing the best I can, however, isn’t usually the best I’m capable of doing. That’s not to say I don’t have standards. But the time ironing my boxer shorts would take isn’t worth the pleasure I get from seeing them neatly folded in the drawer. I could, but what’s the point?

Glass Houses, my unpublished memoir, was the best I could do at the time with the knowledge I had. A little research might have helped. But I doubt it, because I’m the kind of learner who has to try something out before the directions make any sense. Deadlines to submit another 5000 words to my critique group drove me to finish Until Thanksgiving, and the minute I did, I had to send the manuscript out to publishers.

I’m proud of Until Thanksgiving. That my very first novel was good enough to earn an advance from a well-respected publisher stands among the biggest thrills of my life. But was it the best I was capable of doing? No. That it was “good enough” spared me the time and agony making it better would take. Checking off “become a published author” from my to-do list was what mattered most.

I could devote several paragraphs to defending my decision to put out something other than my very best work. Except to say I didn’t know any better, I won’t waste your time. What’s done is done. The experience has forced me me to change my approach for writing a novel from getting it done to making sure it’s the best I’m capable of writing.

The draft of After Christmas Eve that Dreamspinner Press rejected was good enough. The issue, since that’s all they publish, was a complete and total lack of romance. Doh! I pondered my options for a few weeks and decided to revise the manuscript for them. They’ve been good to me, are great to work with, and I’m familiar with how they operate.

Initially, the plan was to add just enough romance to get it published as soon as possible. But then I saw blog and message board discussions about the decline of the quality of writing in the m-m romance genre. Talking with authors in the genre whose writing impresses me helped me see the need to change my approach. Good enough is no longer acceptable. My novels need to be the best I’m capable of writing.

I’m not on a schedule. No deadlines drive me to lower my standards. There’s no need to rush.

Revising After Christmas Eve is slow going. The hardest part — figuring out what I wanted to do with the story — is behind me. I’m up to Chapter 13 with one new chapter finished and major revisions to several more. The groundwork is in place for the new plot lines and I shouldn’t have too much trouble weaving them through the remaining chapters.

I’m picking up on lots of little ways to improve the story and have really tightened up the writing. I’ve tinkered with wording on probably every page. Though I’m not even a fourth of the way into the revisions, the changes have improved a story that was already pretty darn good. You’ll be able to see for yourself when I’m done. Working through the revisions will take time, but should be worth the wait.

2 responses to “Taking My Time”

  1. Hi Michael, I’m really glad you decided to revise After Christmas Eve. It’s a bang up good thriller already, but I think having a love interest will make it that much better. And kudos on taking your time. Take your time, do it right, isn’t that what they say? 😀

    • Thank you, Tali. You played a big role in my decision–along with the fact I was stressing myself out. Thanks for your encouragement and support.